An In-depth Sight on Banking Technology

By Sandeep Khera, CIO, XacBank


Sandeep Khera, CIO, XacBank

The Future Trends in Financial Services Industry

Technology driven disruption is on cards.  As an observation, the queues at bank counters have become shorter, branches have become smaller and transaction data is directly stored on the databases with minimum paper work. Smart phones are not a novelty any more. They have become almost ubiquitous and have the potential to disrupt almost every aspect of retail financial world especially the way we carry cash or card and use it to pay for things securely and with increasing convenience. There is already significant disruption in the payments & money transfer world where non-traditional entities like telecom companies, e-commerce & IT players etc. have entered the banking space of payments and money transfers. Coupled with cloud connectivity technology can completely change the way services are delivered and consumed.

While Bitcoin has had a choppy ride so far the growth in popularity of block-chain technology has been steady. Increasing trust and support could lead to a chain reaction in the space of crypto currency and its use in the not so distant future threatening the whole idea of paper-money. The emergence of big-data related technologies has acted as a catalyst and bankers are increasingly relying upon IT organization to provide incisive analytics which will widen and deepen their customer base along their wallet share.


Changing Role of CIOs in Constantly Evolving Finance and Business Sector

With traditional banking being increasingly disrupted by non-bank players using technology, bankers are increasingly turning to their technology colleagues lead by the CIO to help them understand as well as innovate since they try to stay relevant and competitive. Today, almost every bank has a digital strategy or at-least they are working on it. It is clear that smart devices coupled with cloud will prevail in the future and if banks don’t understand how this interconnected eco-system works they will eventually perish. Business is relying on their CIOs to unravel this mystery for them and lead the way in strategizing its use to get ahead. However, a number of technology start-ups have mushroomed around the globe focussing on inventing disruptive technologies thereby providing fierce competition to banks. CIO’s on the other hand are increasingly investing on internal innovation teams or tie-up with start-ups to come up with new product ideas and reap the first movers reward although the window of advantage has shrunk significantly. Furthermore, social media and cloud are relatively more recent phenomenon and banks have always had a lot of customers and transaction data at their disposal but never creatively mined it to predict customer behaviour and cross-sell.


Skills of Expertise which I have employed in Resolving Clients’ Business needs

I believe that one of the biggest issues that we have today is that most IT professionals are unable to establish a ‘connection’ with the business. Either they are ‘order takers’ or ‘too technical’.

Consulting and Advisory: Learn how to speak both techie and non-techie. It is important for all of us to understand and know the business and understand what makes the business tricky.  One must be equipped to identify problems and contribute ideas leading to more relevant solutions for the business.

Financial & Efficiency Management: It is important to have sharp ‘business acumen’ and provide clear recommendations on how much and where to invest in technology.  Good knowledge of budgets/cost management, technology trends and organization’s appetite to invest in technology is important.

IT Strategy and Technical skills: In a constantly changing world, it is important to understand future trends in terms of business and technology. I believe all IT professionals must develop strategy development and implementation skills and ability to think 3-4 years ahead. 

Execution & Project Management: Research has proven that 62 percent of IT projects fail while 68 percent of technology projects are "improbable". It is extremely important to develop good requirements analysis and project management skills in all organizations.


What is Leadership?

In my view, Leadership is nothing but “common sense”. In the business of Information Technology it is extremely important to remember “Change is the only constant in life”. One has to learn to think outside the box and challenge your biases. All leaders have to be open to new ideas and have a clear strategy of what is possible to deliver. One has to constantly– “Ask the hard questions and ask the right questions.” Other thing to remember is “patience, patience and more patience” – especially with users, technologies, vendors, managers and self is a must. Being a great leader is more than getting the job done. You've got to balance your team's need with your goals and objectives as well as your emotions.

Things have changed from what they were 15 years ago. The command-and-control way of thinking has given way to an era of employee empowerment and engagement. Leaders need to understand that “one shoe will not fit all” and how you manage people is the key to success. In summary, leadership can be stressful, fun, challenging and a whole lot of other things! Having an overflowing supply of energy and patience is important.


One of the most ‘Game Changing’ Projects that I have worked on

In one of my jobs, I was entrusted with a challenge of building a shared service centre that can host few thousand people. This was a complex project keeping in view cultural and technology challenges working across 5 countries and 4 continents. The project was completed under very aggressive timelines (<6-7 months) and the project team won the ‘Forbes Applied Innovation Award’ for implementing a unique/innovative sourcing model for the first time in industry. This initiative involved intellectual and management challenge to build an organization from scratch and negotiating multi-million dollar outsourcing contracts with vendors. I believe this was a “game changing” project as it led to huge cost savings, process efficiencies and operating model i.e. ‘Right work at the Right Location’ with right operating model.  

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